January 4, 2013

Toddler found bruised in Waterville's South End; Lewiston man charged with felony assault

Kareem Johnson, 29, was babysitting child for a week; child expected to recover from physical injuries, deputy police chief says

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- A Lewiston man was arrested Thursday night after a 2-year-old girl left in his care on King Street was found with severe bruises on her buttocks and legs, according to police.

Kareem Johnson, 29, of 127 Howe St., Apt. 1, Lewiston, had baby-sat the child in the city's South End for a week, Waterville police Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said Friday. The toddler's mother came home Thursday to find her with serious bruises, he said.

Police went to the home around 4:30 p.m. after receiving a report of a domestic dispute there.

"It is a child abuse case, the severity of which we don't see very often," Rumsey said.

Johnson is not the toddler's father, but has been her mother's boyfriend on and off for two years, according to Rumsey. He is wanted in South Carolina for failure to pay child support.

Officer Adam Sirois arrested Johnson Thursday and charged him with class C felony assault, which is punishable by up to five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. He was taken to Kennebec County jail in Augusta, where bail was set at $5,000 cash.

A jail spokesman confirmed Friday afternoon that Johnson was still incarcerated there.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 12 on the assault charge.

The child's mother told police Thursday that she found bruisies on the toddler's buttocks and the back of her legs when she took her into the bathroom.

"It appeared the bruising was a result of being struck," Rumsey said. The mother "became very upset, confronted Johnson, and that resulted in the verbal confrontation that was going on when the officers arrived."

Police took the mother and child to MaineGeneral Medical Center's Thayer Campus, where the toddler was treated.

"We believe that she will be fine and that she'll likely recover fully from her physical wounds; however, they were of a severity the officers felt went far beyond the disciplinary rights of a parent or caregiver," Rumsey said.

Johnson is wanted by Colleton County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina for failure to pay child support. Rumsey said South Carolina will not arrest Johnson unless he is in that state, meaning Maine won't extradite him to the state to face those charges.

Johnson was convicted in 2007 for disorderly conduct and assault in Lewiston and for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in 2009, according to Rumsey.

He also was convicted in South Carolina for aggravated breach of the peace in 2001 and simple assault in 2004, Rumsey said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247

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